European leaders met with a senior Iranian official over the weekend in an attempt to tame Iran’s regional muscle-flexing. The high-level diplomatic exercise also served the purpose of meeting a key Trump administration demand. The bid by Europeans to curtail Iranian meddling in the many conflicts in the Middle East – Yemen and Syria to name a few – is aimed at convincing the White House to keep the Iran nuclear deal and show the US that there are other ways to keep Iranian aggression in check.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to end the US involvement in the Iranian nuclear deal this coming May, when he must decide whether to continue with the sanction waivers required under the 2015 nuclear deal agreement or not. He has made Iran and its engagement in the region a focal point of his foreign policy, committing the US to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.
The EU-Iran meeting took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference – a new channel of talks between both sides. Chaired by the EU, it brought together senior diplomats from across the bloc and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of the discussions was the conflict in Yemen. The meeting comes at the time of rising concerns about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.
US national security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster said that Tehran was building a network of proxy forces like Hezbollah throughout the region, arming them with more and more sophisticated arms. “So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said. Europeans who have been strong supporters of the nuclear deal have promised to work with Washington to address the non-nuclear challenges, mostly Iran’s regional activities.